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Angus Peter Campbell: Young people deserve better than we’re giving them

A young girl fleeing Ukraine, at the border in Kroscienko, Poland (Photo: Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)
A young girl fleeing Ukraine, at the border in Kroscienko, Poland (Photo: Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto/Shutterstock)

Three of my children are currently students at music colleges.

One at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, one at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, and one at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. So, I get to have the great privilege of seeing (and hearing) them play music. Sometimes on their own, but mostly in ensembles and groups and orchestras with other young people.

All these marvellous young people fill me with hope and pride.

For we live in a world which seems in such despair. From the brutal assault on Ukraine to the continuing tragedy of climate change (has anything happened since COP26?), you’d think there was no hope. And there isn’t if we’re reliant for a changed future on the political pawns of the global industrial capitalist world.

They have a vested (financial) interest in armaments and things staying as they are. But, as Bob Dylan reminded us long go, the times they are a-changing.

What did he say again? “Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call / Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall / For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled / The battle outside ragin’ / Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changin’…”

Putin will one day go the way of all dictators, for it’s clear that he doesn’t speak for the good, ordinary people of Russia. Like us, they too want to be governed by consent, not by force.

Is there anything more shameful than breaking young people’s dreams?

Do you remember being young? Those days, if only in the imagination, when the sun always shone and all you had to do was play in the close or in the street or on the machair or on the moor. When you ate your piece and then went out to play and only came back when you were hungry, for another piece, and then went back out to play again, until the sun set.

The thing that will be best remembered is not Putin’s wickedness but ordinary people’s defiance and resistance and honour and courage and love

Oh, I know there were other times and memories. That clip round the ear from the teacher because you stumbled on the nine times tables again. And that strap from the headmaster because you refused to tell who had left the taps running in the boys’ toilet and everything flooded. And all these other horrible things that broke the glass and the dream.

Many young people have become involved in protesting to raise awareness of climate change and demand action (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

I don’t think there’s anything more shameful than breaking young people’s dreams. Let them be, as John Lennon almost sang. Despite our governing law-breakers, the vast majority of people are good and decent. Including the vast majority of young people.

They want a world in which everyone gets their fair share, and are keenly aware of the many injustices that favour the strong over the weak and the rich over the poor and all the other inequalities that make everything so unfair. We can tolerate ever so much, as long as we’re all in it together.

In the current deadly tragedy of invasion and war we are also seeing tremendous spirit and togetherness. The thing that will be best remembered is not Putin’s wickedness but ordinary people’s defiance and resistance and honour and courage and love. Mothers cradling their babies across borders, young men carrying old people to safety.

Young people everywhere have always deserved better

I remember being at the Resistance museum in Paris a few years ago, and the most memorable thing was this: the pure joy as Charles de Gaulle led the masses down the Champs-Élysées on Liberation Day, August 25 1944. I was in tears sharing their day of freedom.

That was tempered by the earlier black and white film documenting the very opposite: that terrible day in June 1940, when the German army occupied Paris.

Thousands of shaven-headed soldiers trampling over the great symbols of European civilisation. The lovely cafe streets of Paris where Manet and Cézanne and Rodin and Brâncuși and so many others made their beautiful works now resounding to the deathly march of the jackboots.

And what struck me, watching the Reich marching into Paris, was how young these soldiers were: just children, ardent for some desperate glory, led astray by the old patriarchal lie, as Wilfred Owen cried: “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori”.

They all deserved better. As do our children. Here and in Russia and in the Ukraine and everywhere.

Surely it’s not too much to expect their hopes can be fulfilled? That our children can afford to rent or buy a home here in their native Gàidhealtachd, for instance. That they can have a place called home, whether in Kilmuir or in Kyiv.


Angus Peter Campbell is an award-winning writer and actor from Uist

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